As the Mattia Destro ban controversy rages in the background, the Serie A season continues to march forward. For Roma, who will not be getting Destro back, the 34th matchday sees them away at Fiorentina in one of the toughest of the five remaining games this season. It also means two sides with more than a few similarities will face off. Both are hoping for points to reach objectives that are almost certainly out of reach.
For the home side, there’s the slightest glimmer of hope of reaching third to take a Champions League spot away from Napoli, with nine points separating Vincenzo Montella's and Rafa Benitez's sides and fifteen left to potentially gain. The visitors’ task is only slightly less impossible, sitting eight points behind Juventus in first. Only the most unrealistic and improbable of meltdowns would give either team much left to play for in terms of aiming higher up the table. Yet despite that, the season goes on.
Fiorentina have become one of the more fun rivals of the giallorossi in recent years. Part of this is certainly due to the capital contingent that has settled into life in Florence; midfielders Alberto Aquilani and David Pizarro, as well as Montella and sporting director Daniele Prade, were on the other side of Saturday’s divide just a few short years ago. Roma have an ex-purple or two of their own, with Adem Ljajic the most recent of them all, but Federico Balzaretti spent a rather forgettable stint with the club in 2007-08. In terms of recent form, the visitors are certainly the ones heading into the match with the most confidence. Rudi Garcia’s men have won an outstanding seven matches in a row since losing to Napoli on March 9, scoring at least twice every game. Fiorentina have won their past two but stretching back over that same amount of time have also lost twice and drawn once while beating Napoli in the mix. Their most recent victory, a 3-5 away win at Hellas, demonstrated the good and the bad of Montella’s men, with their midfield contingent putting enough in the net to overcome a back line that has conceded 37 goals this season compared to Roma's 19.
Both sides will limp into the match with massive losses. Mehdi Benatia and Kevin Strootman remain injured for Roma, not to mention Destro’s suspension. Fiorentina have Mati Fernandez, Ante Rebic, Mario Gomez, Massimo Ambrosini and Giuseppe Rossi out injured. Both sides are missing their best strikers and influential midfielders, and the match may come down to who has the better back line on the day. It certainly will not be a showcase of what the two teams are truly capable of achieving.
Roma have had the better of Fiorentina in the past three tries, with a 2-1 victory at home earlier this season coming after two wins last season (the first of which featured a spectacularly in-form Francesco Totti, who fired the squad to a win and gave a brief glimmer of hope for the Zdenek Zeman era). The all-time league head-to-head record between these two sides has seen Roma leading with 11 wins, five draws and only three losses.
It’s unfortunate that this game might mean almost nothing in terms of the final league table because both sides have had marvelous seasons overshadowed by various injuries and personnel absences.